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Religious Tolerance logo

Same-sex marriage (SSM) & domestic partnerships in California


2010 to now: Polls show heavy support for SSM

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There are strong indicators of the increase in support for, and decrease in opposition to, same-sex marriage (SSM) in California.

One is a paper by Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips of Columbia University titled "Gay rights in the states: Public opinion and policy responsiveness." It appeared in the American Political Science Review. 1 This was a meta study of the level of support for same-sex marriage (SSM) in each state in the U.S. over the interval 1994 to 2009. Their findings for California indicate that support for SSM has risen by 17 percentage points between 1994-5 and 2008-9. During the interval 2008-2009, it had achieved 50%. It would have presumably risen to slightly over 51% by the middle of 2010 when this essay was first posted and the following two polls were conducted.

Another indicator was a poll issued during 2010-JUL by Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI), in anticipation of the ruling by District Judge Vaughn Walker on the constitutionality of Proposition 8. (That was the public initiative that banned SSMs in the state by a very slim majority.) Their poll was conducted during the latter half of 2010-JUN. Among their findings, they reported on the following two questions:

  • When asked about Proposition 8, with the question: "How would you vote if you had to vote a similar Proposition tomorrow?" results were:

    • 51% would vote to allow same-sex marriage.
    • 45% to keep same-sex marriage illegal -- that is, unavailable.
    • 4% Didn’t know or refused to answer.

  • When asked how should gay relationships be handled, preferences were:
    • 42% favored allowing them to marry;
    • 31% favored allowing them to enter civil unions but not marry;
    • 24% wanted no legal recognition of gay relationships at all;
    • 3% don't know or refuse to answer. 2,3

A third indicator is a series of polls by the Field Research Corporation. They have been sampling public opinion on SSM since 1977. At that time, only 28% of voters favored it. This support increased by 2010 to 51%, and has more than doubled the 1977 value in 2013-FEB. It is now approaching a ratio of 2:1 in favor of SSM:

Graph of SSM support & opposition4,5,6

Field Poll results from 2003 to 2013-FEB

A SurveyUSA poll conducted in mid 2013-MAR shows that more than two thirds of California adults support SSM! 7 That is the highest level of support that we have seen among all of the state polls.

Currently, supporters of marriage equality are fighting in the courts to have Proposition 8 declared unconstitutional. Prop. 8 was the citizen initiative that terminated same-sex marriages in California in 2008-NOV. SSM supporters have won at the federal district court level, before a three judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, and before the full Court of Appeals..

In early 2013, we predicted that:

The appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court will almost certainly produce a very close vote. If the drive towards marriage equality in California fails at the highest court in the land supporters still have a fall-back position. With the surge in support and collapse of opposition to SSM over the past few years, it would seem that a new citizen initiative in 2014 to repeal Prop. 8 and to reinstate marriage equality would be a shoo-in. If the appeal overturns Prop. 8 then loving, committed same-sex couples would be able to marry shortly afterwards. Also, the general movement towards marriage equality in the U.S. would receive a boost.

Because the nine Justices of the Supreme Court are almost equally balanced between conservative and liberal judicial philosophies, we expect a 5 to 4 decision by the court in 2013-JUN. But we haven't the foggiest idea which way the Court will go.

The Supreme Court handed down its ruling on 2013-JUL-26. As expected, the vote was 5:4. However, rather than declare Proposition 8 either constitutional or unconstitutional, they declared that ProtectMarriage -- the organization that originally promoted Prop. 8 and who appealed the lawsuit to the Court of Appeals and later to the Supreme Court -- did not have standing to appeal the case to either court. The Justices of the Supreme Court held that the District Court ruling was still valid: that Prop. 8 was unconstitutional.

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Topics covered in this section:

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Jeffrey Lax and Justin Phillips, "Gay rights in the states: Public opinion and policy responsiveness," American Political Science Review, Volume 103 (3), 2009.
  2. "Religion, Proposition 8, and Same-Sex Marriage in California. New Poll: Only One-in-Five Californians Say Proposition 8 'Good Thing', Majority Now Support Same-Sex Marriage," Public Religion Research Institute, 2010-JUN, at:
  3. "2010 California Same-sex Marriage Survey," Public Religious Research Institute, 2010-JUN, at:
  4. "Release #2349: Voter sentiment remains on the side of allowing same-sex marriage in California," Field Research Corporation 2010-JUL-20, at: This is a PDF file.
  5. Mark DiCamillo and Mervin Field, "Big increase in California voters who favor allowing same-sex marriage," The Field Poll, 2012-FEB-29, at  This is another accursed PDF file.
  6. Micah Cohen, "Poll Finds Record Support for Same-Sex Marriage in California," FiveThirtyEight blog, 2013-MAR-01, at:
  7. "KPIX Poll: Californians Support Gay Marriage, Want Prop. 8 Overturned," KPIX-TV, 2013-MAR-25, at:
Site navigation:

Home page > "Hot" topics > Homosexuality > Couples > California > here

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Portions copyright © 2010 to 2013 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Original posting: 2010-JUL-30
Latest update: 2013-JUL-14
Author: B.A. Robinson

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